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A Home for Homeless Cats
Marleen Drijgers has come up with
a practical solution to ensure that homeless cats in her city can
have decent shelter and food in an organised and socially acceptable
way. She sets an outstanding example, which can be followed by others
wishing to help solve similar problems in their own towns and cities.
Here's her story ...
was sitting in front of my shed, heavily pregnant and softly said
“miao”. Naturally, from then on I called her Miao. She would not
let me touch her and I could only get within a few meters of her.
My shed is adjacent to a large parking lot in the centre of town.
Not exactly a suitable place for her to go into labour and have
her kittens. I lured her into the shed with some food and then set
about finding a good home for her.
The cat shelter was willing to give her temporary asylum. Wild and
semi-wild cats can’t be re-domesticated and housed with people,
so for Miao and her kittens, the solution would be to put them to
sleep permanently. “They would not feel a thing......” The 60 tame
cats and 70 kittens that had been brought in over the Summer period,
for whom a home could not be found either, was the explanation given
for this strict policy.
Obviously, I did not take Miao to the shelter and the very next
day she gave birth to three beautiful kittens. Fortunately, some
very good homes were offered by friends of mine for these beautiful
kittens, especially for the completely mousy grey tomcat en his
two calico cat sisters. Miao was to be neutered after 2 ½ months
and then to be released again in the neighbourhood in which she
was found. Anyway, that was the plan.
I knew that there was a group of stray
cats living in the centre of town already. These neglected stray
cats and their offspring found shelter on the industrial estate
in the large cargo holds and in the bushes and long grass patches
in the middle of town. Every couple of years, these cats would be
caught and taken to the cat shelter and I now knew what was in store
for them. This was something that I felt needed to be changed, starting
as from now.
That very same night, I saw a small black mother cat with 4 kittens
of around 7 weeks old sneaking into the shopping area. She took
agile leaps into the trashcans and every now and then came out with
something eatable. These kittens were just as skinny as their mother.
The owner of the perfume store on the corner told me that she really
loved animals and that she hated seeing all these poor little kittens
being born every spring and autumn. But what could she do about
it? She had no idea.
I had not been living in this city for long at that time, but thought
that there had to be something I could do about this situation.
Not just talking about it but actually doing something constructive,
no words but deeds, became my motto. Every day, I brought these
starving cats food at the same spot just on the edge of the industrial
estate. After a couple of weeks, they were already waiting for me
to come and feed them. Step by step, I gained their trust and the
distance between the cats and me became smaller, literally and figuratively
speaking. With the aid of a dog bench I succeeded in catching them
one by one. Their greed for smoked mackerel was greater than their
fear of the large cage with the long thin nylon cord tied to the
After a few weeks, all 15 stray
cats had been neutered and 7 kittens had been domesticated and adopted
by cat loving people. The strays were now being fed every day but
still I was not happy. When it was pouring down with rain, I found
the cats completely drenched when I came to feed them at night.
So as not to miss their dinner, they would wait for me come rain
or shine. They even came when it was snowing, storming or hailstones
were beating down from the sky. They really needed some sort of
a roof over their heads under which they could take cover and eat.
Or, even better, they could really do with a house in which they
could also sleep.
convincing conversation with the manager of this particular company
solved the problem. He agreed that it would be best for all concerned
if the cats were to be given their own space on the grounds. Then
they would not get in anyone’s way and their population could be
kept under control. Apart from that, these cats had a function to
fulfil, namely keeping the grounds free of mice and rats. The stray
cats were appointed company cats!
A written-off builders shack on wheels was transformed into a shelter
with 2 rooms and 2 entrances. Carton boxes with blankets in them
supplied soft and warm comfort. The first catshelter was a fact.
After a week, all the cats had conquered their corner in their new
cathouse. Some good buddies even slept together in the same box.
I was happy and so were the cats.
The company management was very satisfied with the functioning of
the cat shelter. No more kittens were being born, the cats were
looking healthy and there was no mouse or rat to be seen anywhere.
This company also had another holding
located at another larger industrial estate further away, where
there was also a large population of stray cats. I was asked if
I would be prepared to start up the same project there? Well, of
course, only I could not do it alone.
The local department of the Animal Protection Organisation was not
inclined to help me. So I organised a large scale castration action,
together with some of my friends. Kittens that were caught were
domesticated and adopted by families.
To our great surprise, we also found several domesticated cats.
They would have to have been dumped there, because there was not
a house or farm to be seen anywhere for miles around. One cat even
had a microchip and after reading this, was traced back to his owners
who lived in another province. It would appear that there are people
who take a cat from its’ neighbourhood and then release it a couple
hundred miles from home. Cat haters and pigeon fanciers are capable
of doing such a thing. It would be best if everyone had their cat
micro chipped of course. All the neutered cats had their ear clipped.
This means that a little piece of the right ear tip was cut off.
This was done under sedation during the neutralisation operation.
This way it is very easy to see from a distance which cat has and
which cat has not yet been neutered.
the dog bench did not suffice anymore as a trapping device. Most
of these cats were born in the wild and were very cagy. A bench
with a door being pulled closed with a piece of string was no option
in these cases. A professional trapping device was bought through
the veterinary surgeon’s practice.
At the end of winter, we had caught some 20 cats, neutered them
and housed them in a lovely cat shelter. Two of the company employees
made sure that the cats were fed on a daily basis with the cat food
we brought to them every month. The garbage cans near the canteen
were no longer being raided by hungry cats.
A neighbouring company on this same industrial estate also wanted
something done about the “cat problem” on their grounds. This is
how the third cat shelter became a fact. This cat shelter was built
by the technical support people of this company. A window and two
real cat flaps made it an ideal cat shelter. Two of the employees
were made responsible for the welfare of the cats. Luckily they
were both real cat lovers and they take great care of the cats every
day. We deliver the cat food to them on a monthly basis.
thing lead to another, and there are now 7 cathouses and an 8th
one in the making. A caravan, a gipsy wagon, a blockhouse and also
dog kennels and large plastic storage boxes have been made suitable
as shelters. On the industrial estate alone, we have already caught
150 stray cats and we only use the winter months from the end of
October until March, in order to avoid catching lactating mother
We have set up a working party with a few very motivated volunteers.
We now own 5 decent trapping devices. We beg for money everywhere
and from everyone in order to pay for both the cat food and the
castration operations. Fortunately, some of the companies are prepared
to pay for these costs themselves.
Our goal is to give shelter to as many of the cats living in this
huge industrial estate as we possibly can. A few years ago, these
stray cats were being hunted down. But because they have now become
company cats, they are no longer, by law, allowed to be shot. The
hunters who have their hunting grounds on the industrial estate
have been told by the council that they are no longer allowed to
hunt down cats.
is well that ends well. And how is Miao doing? After her two calico
kittens were adopted by dear friends, Miao stopped eating and drinking
and became ill. She was searching for her two kittens everywhere,
even though they were only adopted after 11 weeks. I could not bring
myself to also take her third and last baby away from her.
By tempting her with pieces of meat and boiled fish, she slowly
started to eat again and eventually she made a full recovery. Miao
and her son are still living with me now. Miao will, even after
all this time, still not let me stroke her but she does wink at
me and that makes both me and Miao feel very content indeed.
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